Rare Earth Elements in Fly Ashes as Potential Indicators of Anthropogenic Soil Contamination

  • Shas V. Mattigod
Chapter

Abstract

Studies of rare earth element (REE) content of disposed fly ashes and their potential mobility were neglected for decades because these elements were believed to be environmentally benign. A number of recent studies have now shown that REE may pose a long-term risk to the biosphere. Therefore, there is a critical need to study the REE concentrations in fly ash and their potential mobilization and dispersal upon disposal in the environment. We analyzed the REE content of bulk, size fractionated, and density separated fractions of three fly ash samples derived from combustion of sub bituminous coals from the western United States and found that the concentrations of these elements in bulk ashes were within the range typical of fly ashes derived from coals from the North American continent. The concentrations of light rare earth elements (LREE) such as La, Ce, and Nd, however, tended towards the higher end of the concentration range whereas, the concentrations of middle rare earth elements (MREE) (Sm and Eu) and heavy rare earth elements (HREE) (Lu) were closer to the lower end of the observed range for North American fly ashes. The concentrations of REE did not show any significant enrichment with decreasing particle size, this is typical of nonvolatile lithophilic element behavior during the combustion process. The lithophilic nature of REE was also confirmed by their concentrations in heavy density fractions of these fly ashes being on average about two times more enriched than the concentrations in the light density fractions. Shale normalized average of REE concentrations of fly ashes and coals revealed significant positive anomalies for Eu and Dy. Because of these distinctive positive anomalies of Eu and Dy, we believe that fly ash contamination of soils can be fingerprinted and distinguished from other sources of anthropogenic REE inputs in to the environment.

Keywords

Vortex Sulfide Zircon Silicate Sludge 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shas V. Mattigod
    • 1
  1. 1.Pacific Northwest National LaboratoryRichlandUSA

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